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Vail Valley high school golfers set for opener

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Battle Mountain senior Cameron Brown plays a different type of golf than the rest of us with one exception.

“Putting,” Brown said. “I’ve been working on my short game all summer. If I’m going to have any chance, I’ve got to be sharp there. Everybody’s going to miss greens. You’ve got to get up and down.”

Whether it’s today’s opening round of the PGA Championship, today’s high school season opener for Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley and Vail Mountain at Battlement Mesa or your regular weekend foursome, it’s all about the short game.

The Huskies’ Brown hopes that nailing down the so-called smaller aspects leads to very big things in 2009. As a junior, he won regular-season tournaments at Bookcliff (Grand Junction), Eagle-Vail, Cotton Ranch and Steamboat Springs’ Haymaker.

Unfortunately, he also tweaked his wrist at Haymaker and injured it the next day at Yampa in Craig. Brown shut down his game for a few weeks, went to regionals and still qualified for state, where he finished 16th.

While that’s a great performance, the now-senior was not too thrilled. After a summer of criss-crossing the state and playing in some national tournaments, Brown is looking for the brass ring – a state championship.

“Definitely the goal,” Brown said. “There’s one golfer in the state who can give me a problem when I get (to state). But it’s going to be my last high school tournament and I’m going to give it everything. He’s a good stick, but hopefully, I’ll put two good rounds together.”

That good stick would be Valor Christian’s Wyndham Clark, who took second at state last year with rounds of 66 and 76. Last year’s champ, D’Evelyn’s Brandon Beeg, graduated.

It’s strange to hear a golfer tak about the state tournament as a “when” rather than an “if,” but Brown’s rounds this summer indicate that it’s more of a case of the former. While injured, Brown qualified for the tournament with an 81, which was a really bad round by his standards.

Now healthy, Brown has been in the high 60s and low 70s most of the summer, and unless Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson move into the region, the senior should be a good bet for state at Highlands Ranch come Oct. 5-6.

For Battle Mountain as a team, the question is who can fill the second and third scoring spots? Dustin Martin, who also qualified for state last year, graduated, and coach Cassie Desmone will be looking for candidates in Steven Licciardi, Colton Becker, JP Ferzacca, William Thompson, Cooper Beals, Dillon McDonald, Edgar Gaspar, Christian Nichols, Andrew Sady, Brady McDonald, Bryan Aubel, Collin Hanson and Michael Wilhelm.

“The guys are psyched,” Huskies coach Cassie Desmone said. “Every individual on the team wants to back (Brown) up. Cameron’s going to be low and we have some guys who can get into the 70s. They want to do it.”

Devils boast depth

Eagle Valley golf still has four sets of teams – black, red, white and silver – as it did last year, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Jamison Bair, Bryan Brennan, Bryan Matthews, Chris Brubeck and Cooper Adams are all off to college. The first two made school history by becoming the first Devils to make state.

Now a new group hopes to follow in their footsteps, and there’s reason for excitement downvalley.

“What I’m trying to do is give everyone a taste up there (at varsity) where it counts,” Devils coach Todd Buzbee said. “We’re not going to have them just hitting range balls and hoping they can play.

Last year, the five graduated seniors were essentially the black team and the varsity squad. This year, Buzbee considers both the black and red squad to be his varsity. Dustin Arguello, Jalen Aquino, Nick Bontempo, Stuart Rassmussen and Austin Fahrenholtz will don the black shirts for now.

But it is the red team of Evan Buzbee, Cooper Senn, Alec Sterkel, Kevin Stough and Woody Lich and the silver squad of Austin Barber, Westin Blevins and Chris Hollis which will get the call today at Battlement Mesa.

This system of rotating his teams through the season worked well for the Devils in 2008. In fact, the white team, theoretically the third team in the program, won at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale last year.

This year’s white team includes Jimmy Pritchard, Taylor Sanchez, Derek Kaspar, Hayden Floyd and Reed Hortberg.

The current black team features experience in the likes of Arguello and Fahrenholtz who were a part of the regional team last year at Aspen. But unlike last season, when Bair and Brennan, were expected to make state, there are no expectations this season.

And that pleases Tom Buzbee.

“We have a lot of kids who are growing into roles,” Buzbee said. “With graduation, everybody moved up around five spots. We’re excited to see how these kids play. We’re young enough where there’s no pressure on how we play.”

VMS start second year

The 3A state tournament is at the Cougar Canyon Golf Course in Trinidad this year.

We just say that because last year Vail Mountain golf didn’t even bother to look up the location of the state tourney when the school resumed its varsity program. As it turned out, then-sophomore Alex Bard actually qualified and the Gore Rangers were forced to do some quick research.

While the novelty of everything being a first is fun, having that maiden voyage completed is a good thing and Gore Rangers seem to be coming together well for 2009.

“We have an experienced squad returning,” VMS coach Ross Sapenfield said. “This team has a much different profile than last year.”

Bard and A.J. Yankee were the veterans last year and they’re joined by Davey Honda, Jack Geddes, John McKenna, Ian Reed, Cooper Perkins. Erik Warmenhoven, Leo Salamunovich and Simon Noble.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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